Urgent 'life or death' heater warning as temperatures plunge

With temperatures plummeting for the start of winter, households are bringing out their heaters to stay warm indoors.

But fire authorities are issuing an urgent warning, highlighting a Sydney house fire on Monday morning that could have proven deadly.

Sharing an image of the home's burnt carpet, Fire and Rescue NSW reminded people of the importance of using heating devices properly.

“Remember to check your heater before you use it this winter... does it need cleaning, a service or possible replacing?" FRNSW Superintendent Adam Dewberry said.

The heater was unrecognisable after the fire. Source: Fire and Rescue NSW
The heater was unrecognisable after the fire. Source: Fire and Rescue NSW

The fire at an elderly woman's Blacktown home had started after the heater melted due to the extreme heat.

The sleeping 96-year-old was able to escape after her fire alarm went off.

Smoke alarms are often the difference between life and death. In this case, the elderly resident was woken by the alarm and had enough time to escape out the front door,” Superintendent Dewberry said.

Crews from four fire trucks arrived at the home shortly after 7am and managed to extinguish the fire despite the thick smoke.

The other threats homes face during the winter

Fire and Rescue NSW said homes are at a heightened risk during winter and said the public can take several preventative measures to stay safe in the coming months.

Heaters should be kept one metre away from any items and clothing should not be placed on top at any time.

Fireplaces should be cleaned and maintained while electric blankets should not be left on while sleeping or outside the home.

Outdoor heating or cooking equipment should not be used indoors to heat homes, while any combustion heating, including unflued gas heating, must have adequate ventilation, and should not be used in bedrooms.

Dr Christine Cowie, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of NSW’s Centre for Air Quality and Health Research and Evaluation previously told Yahoo News Australia failing to strictly follow such advice can prove fatal due to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

“The problem with carbon monoxide is that it is an odourless gas,” she said.

“There is no advanced warning.”

Australia's recent rain deluge has meant less people are able to dry their clothes outdoors, meaning dryers are seeing increased usage.

a circular lint collector
The lint build-up in a Sydney dryer last month. Source: Fire and Rescue NSW

And with winter arriving, there will likely be a further increase, with fire authorities warning to check the build-up of lint in machines.

Last month Berowra Rural Fire Brigade in northern Sydney shared a photo of a huge pile of lint found in a washing machine which was the source of a burning smell.

Lint is highly flammable and can be a recipe for disaster if it makes its way into a dryer’s heating element.

The RFS recommends cleaning the lint filter each and every time a clothes dryer is used to reduce the risk of fire in your home.

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